Thursday, March 8, 2012


Up is down, left is right, and now a government handout is "entrepreneurship."

And the saddest part? Local officials seem to have no problem with it.


A spin off of the University of North Carolina Wilmington's entrepreneurship center could cost taxpayers some money.

The center's director, Jonathan Rowe, approached the city council Monday with the idea of the city helping to fund the start of the new center. He is seeking about $100,000 for the first year to rent a building, pay for water and electricity and some grant money for start-up businesses.

City council members were open to the idea but said Rowe needed to also ask the New Hanover County Commissioners to chip in. The center, which was created in 2010, helps connect start-up companies and small businesses to sources of expertise and funding. The center, now located on campus, has reorganized as UNCW Entrepreneurship Center LLC and will also seek private donations.

Rowe said Monday he can get businesses to donate computers, Internet and phone service but he needs help getting the center up and running. He added, the goal would be to make the center self-sufficient in two years by leasing part of the space to existing businesses.

Mayor Bill Saffo said if the city does donate money to the center, he would want to establish benchmarks.

The biggest question, in a time when the city faces a nearly $13 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, was where the money would come from.

"We're looking at budget shortfalls. We've got to county every penny," Councilwoman Margaret Haynes said. "The concept, I'm OK with. It's just the money. How are we going to pay for it?"

Rowe has been in talks with City Manager Sterling Cheatham who suggested locating the center downtown. Cheatham said this could be the city's way of investing in small business incentives, a priority the mayor laid out in his state of the city speech earlier this year.

[...]Councilman Neil Anderson suggested the city reevaluate the money it gives to existing economic development organizations to see if the resources are being spread out as they should. (Which is not the same, far from it, from questioning in principle.)

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark said the city spends less on economic development than other cities its size or smaller.

"It's pitiful what we spent on it," he said. (Aww, boohoo, Charlie)

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